Source: New Jersey Spotlight
The town-by-town campaign to require employers to give their workers a few days of paid sick leave every year overcame a potential legal hurdle, at least for the time being, when a judge yesterday dismissed a suit arguing that such local laws stray into an area that should be the sole domain of the state legislature.
Mercer County Assignment Judge Mary Jacobson not only rejected a request from business groups for an injunction temporarily blocking Trenton’s new paid sick leave law, but went further and made the unusual decision to dismiss their suit without holding a trial.
The New Jersey Business and Industry Association and other business associations argued that the law passed by Trenton voters in November imposed rules on employer-employee relationships that only the state can establish. It warned that the increasing number of such laws threatened to create a patchwork system that companies would struggle to navigate.
But Jacobson rejected those arguments and several others alleging that the law violates the state constitution. She said the city ordinance was allowed in part because it was clearly intended to keep sick workers at home and prevent the spread of disease. “Municipalities can reasonably pass laws related to the health of their citizens,” she said.
Jacobson’s quick decision came as a welcome surprise to New Jersey Working Families and New Jersey Citizen Action, which have helped get paid sick leave laws passed in nine cities and joined the suit on the city’s side.
Dena Mottola Jaborska, director of organization and advocacy for NJ Citizen Action, said the NJBIA’s argument had seemed “flimsy and frivolous” from the start and its dismissal will give traction to efforts to pass sick leave laws in more towns.
“It clears the way for us to continue our work, working with local people in others towns in New Jersey to pass this law,” she said. “We already know it’s popular. Now we know it’s 100 percent legal, which is what we already believed. We will continue to press the issue and move forward.” The two organizations have received many inquiries from people interested in passing local sick-leave laws and said more towns could move forward on those efforts this year…
The suit was filed by the NJBIA, New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, New Jersey Food Council, New Jersey Restaurant Association, New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, and National Federation of Independent Businesses. Their attorney, Christopher Gibson, said the decision could pave the way for growing confusion among companies that work in multiple towns: “To allow that power to reside in 565 municipalities certainly creates a great degree of uncertainty. Certainly it creates a great possibility for mischief and confusion, and frankly makes it very difficult to comply and to have any employer with the potential for 565 different laws.”
Gibson said he would consult with his clients before deciding whether to appeal. The NJBIA declined to comment after yesterday’s decision.